Protests erupted in several Brazilian cities over the weekend in outrage over the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rio De Janeiro. The gang rape was amplified online as photo and video of the assault was posted to social media and replicated thousands of times over with every view, click, “like,” and misogynistic comment celebrating the men’s actions and declaring the girl had “been asking for it.”
Rio Police have arrested the first of more than 30 suspects in the gang rape, and have identified three more. The Globe and Mail reports that, counter to the initial narrative, which reported that the girl was likely a victim of one of Rio’s drug gangs, the suspects identified are actually “‘regular guys’ — one was until recently a camera operator at a local television station, another is a promising football player for a local team and the son of an evangelical pastor.”
Feminist writer Stephanie Ribeiro identified the problem as the normalization of female sexual violation:
“Violence against women in Brazil is so normalized that 30 men not only rape: They take pictures, joke around and post on social networks gloating about their crime. Before you say we don’t have rape culture — think about that. Or before you say my fear of going out on the street is hysteria… This is not a disease, it is not madness: it is the normalization of evil against us women.”
In April 2014, Brazil criminalized revenge porn through the Marco Civil law, which requires intermediary Internet parties to expediently remove such content from their platforms, at the request of the victims or their legal representative. The law does not allow victims to anonymously seek the removal of content, nor does it remove the content from platforms outside of Brazil.
Currently, there is no comprehensive legislation that effectively prevents cyber sexual abuse from being proliferated online. The victim of this recent gang rape recently posted on Facebook that it was not her body that hurt, but her “soul,” because there are “cruel people not being punished” for the crime against her.
The photos and video of the victim’s assault are no doubt still available online, even if the initial postings were removed from Twitter, as there are no laws compelling websites outside the country to remove them from their platforms. However, the outrage of women in Brazil and beyond offers hope that this failure in legislation could change.